Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Exhortation and Bad Translation

I have started to read the exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" myself, and it is rather difficult to read, in the sense that I do not trust the translations myself. There are several things that they have done that are pet peeves of mine. Personally, I find some of the translation a bit awkward. Rather than just say “man” or “men” they are still forcing a politically skewed translation of "man" into “men and women.” (This is not done in the other translations where they just keep it "men" or "mankind")

It also drives me nuts that certain words are not capitalized. “Sacrament” is not capitalized. “Body” and “Blood” are not capitalized when referring to Christ’s Body and Blood. I learned in grade school that proper nouns and important things were capitalized. Even if it isn’t capitalized in the Latin, I still believe it should be in English, there is precedence for that in English writing of even the recent past. (I also think pronouns referring to God should be as well). But those are my pet peeves.

Fr. Z. points out that there are already errors in the English translation of the recent Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis."

I am going to go ahead and take the liberty to post his entire entry because Fr. Z. has been having some problems with his web hosting service so his site has been difficult to access of late. However, I will email him for permission as well and follow his wishes. EDIT - he allowed me to keep the entire post here.


For a long time I have warned people about bad English translations of papal documents.

There are methodological problems in that the documents are no longer composed in Latin.

The Latin text, which is the official text, is itself a translation.

However, since no one refers to the Latin text… few people know this. Thus, they are always working with compromised versions of documents.

Moreover, the texts they are working with were those released at the time of the presentation of the document, even though the LATIN is itself revised before publication in is final official form in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. But no one goes back to revise the vernacular versions in keeping with the changes in the Latin Lot’s of people are misquoting documents because the vernacular docs themselves were never updated.

That said, let us take a look at the Exhortation’s paragraph on Latin in the liturgy and see if there is a disconnect. I tip my biretta to "stefano" who was alert and caught this before I did.

Latin: exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium, aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina.

In Latin, the phrase aequum est means "it is reasonable, proper, right". It can be rendered as "it is becoming", to use a somewhat archaic turn of phrase.

German: es ist gut, wenn außer den Lesungen, der Predigt und den Fürbitten der Gläubigen die Feier in lateinischer Sprache gehalten wird.

Italian: eccettuate le letture, l’omelia e la preghiera dei fedeli, è bene che tali celebrazioni siano in lingua latina.

French: excepté les lectures, l’homélie et la prière des fidèles, il est bon que ces célébrations soient en langue latine

Spanish: exceptuadas las lecturas, la homilía y la oración de los fieles, sería bueno que dichas celebraciones fueran en latín

Portuguese: exceptuando as leituras, a homilia e a oração dos fiéis, é bom que tais celebrações sejam em língua latina

Polish: z wyjątkiem czytań, homilii oraz modlitwy wiernych, dobrze będzie, jeśli takie celebracje będą odprawiane w języku łacińskim (Literally: "It will be good, if such celebration will be officiated in Latin language").

Are you sensing a pattern in the rendering of aequum est, or rather how aequum est in Latin is more than likely the accurate reading of the original language of composition of the Exortation?

Let’s see the English.

English: with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin.

WOAH…. wait a minute… "could be" celebrated? That changes the entire impact of what the Pope said. All the of the other languages reflect one concept and the English alone says another thing entirely. The English implies that the value of Latin is, at best, a neutral thing. The Latin and all the other languages imply that Latin is positive.

I think we must conclude that whoever did the translation into English chose not to stick to the original text which they were given to work from.

So, as Fr. Z. points out, translation is very important, even if it is just one word. Just as a note, you might recognize "aequum" from the beginning of any preface:

"Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salútare, nos tibi semper et ubíque grátias ágere: Dómine, sancte Pater, omnípotens ætérne Deus..."
My translation:
"It is truly right and just, proper and availing unto salvation, that we always and everywhere give thanks to You, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God..."



Anonymous said...

So how do we find out what is translated properly in this document and what isn't? It kind of sounds like the same old shaft. Is there opportunity for wiggle room here?

Roman Sacristan said...

The best thing to do is to look at the Latin (or the original, although I am not sure if the pope wrote it in German and even if so, if the German on the Vatican website is exactly what he wrote).

I think this just shows that we need to promote a basic knowledge of Latin (and other languages)amongst all Catholics.

Yeah, I agree, it is frutstrating, but this is the (mis)information age. Sifting through it is becoming part of modern life.